Fest topper crusading for filmmakers

ROME — Long after he leaves Venice, fest topper Gillo Pontecorvo will be remembered for his passionate campaign to establish filmers’ moral right to make what they want, free of economic or censorship demands.

An indecent proposal? Not according to the impressive list of names on his international committee of “consultants.”

Helmers lending their support from both sides of the pond include Robert Altman, Bertrand Tavernier, Constantin Costa-Gavras, Ermanno Olmi, Ken Loach, Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders and Ettore Scola.

Steven Spielberg even asked the fest to change the screening date of “Jurassic Park” (originally the closer) so he could take part in the confab on filmmakers’ rights, Sept. 6 and 7 on the Lido.

“The condition of creative freedom is necessary if our profession is to be an art,” says Pontecorvo, director of the 1965 classic “The Battle of Algiers.”

Fighting the cookie-cutters

“Commercial entertainment pictures are increasingly standardized and repetitive,” Pontecorvo insists. “We hope to remove some of the biggest obstacles which increasingly frustrate us in our work. This is an industry of prototypes.”

Last year, the festival hosted the first international filmmakers’ meeting, a packed talkfest that included 10 Oscar winners and some 14 holders of (Venice) Golden Lions and (Cannes) Golden Palms. The free-form brainstorming laid the groundwork for the more structured proposal to be debated next week.

Pontecorvo’s idea is to create international work groups, called “commissions.” They include:

A copyright commission, to study laws in various countries and challenge “unacceptable concepts of copyright,” such as those in the U.S.

An art film distribution commission, to locate and link alternative exhibition chains — film clubs, campuses, independent exhibitors — in various countries.

A film school/new audiences commission, to promote film culture from primary school to university level, in association with Fipresci, the international film critics’ association.

A commission to create a special logo to appear on a limited number of high-quality movies.

An international court to defend freedom of expression, and to draft “ideal audiovisual legislation.”

Pontecorvo also dreams of drafting an International Filmmakers’ Charter. “We have to fight a spirit of defeat, renunciation and self-censorship within ourselves,” he says, “to keep open spaces in danger of closing forever.”

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